Sixers

Rivers pushing Sixers to bring higher preseason intensity

Sixers

The Sixers will play in Philadelphia on Thursday night for the first time since losing Game 7 of their Eastern Conference semifinal series last year to the Hawks.

Here are the essentials for the team’s second preseason game against the Raptors: 

  • When: 7 p.m. ET 
  • Where: Wells Fargo Center
  • Broadcast: NBC Sports Philadelphia
  • Live stream: NBCSportsPhiladelphia.com and the MyTeams app 

And here are three storylines to watch: 

Embiid, Harris set to play 

Joel Embiid and Tobias Harris will “most likely” be available, Sixers head coach Doc Rivers said Wednesday after his team’s practice. Neither player appeared on the NBA’s Wednesday night injury report. 

With Harris (right knee soreness) and Embiid (rest) out, not much worked for the Sixers in their preseason opener. They committed 18 turnovers and shot 8 for 34 from three-point range Monday in a blowout loss in Toronto.

In addition to Ben Simmons, whose holdout continues, Grant Riller is out Thursday. Riller, who’s one of the Sixers’ two-way players, suffered a torn meniscus in his left knee. He'll undergo surgery and be re-evaluated in approximately two weeks, per a team official.

“It’s just part of life in basketball,” Rivers said. “He’s upbeat about it but still, he’s a young guy trying to make a team. He played well (Monday), and now he’s out. It’s just one of the tough blows you have. We like him a lot, I can tell you that.”

Matisse Thybulle was listed as questionable with right shoulder soreness. 

 

Needing to switch on 

Rivers wants the Sixers to improve their conditioning ahead of the regular season. He’d like a mindset shift, too. 

“You just improve by doing more running, doing more playing,” he said. “But I actually thought it was more playing at a higher level of intensity. There’s a difference between getting through practice — I’ve played for 13 years; I know how to get through a practice — and then I knew how to be intense in a practice to get more out of it. And I thought that was part of it, as well.”

The Sixers held a film session before hitting the floor Wednesday, with transition defense lapses from the preseason opener among the points covered. That was a problem throughout last season.

“I think overall, we were not focused enough as a team,” Furkan Korkmaz said. “We just took it like a preseason game, which we shouldn’t have that mentality, because every game is important right now. We need to get in (better) shape. … Defensively, transition is huge. I think we’ve got to get better at transition. Like I said, it’s preseason still. We are still figuring out playing with each other.”

‘We’ve got to get him on the floor more’ 

Andre Drummond and Isaiah Joe were two bright spots from the loss at Scotiabank Arena.

Joe scored 18 points on 5-for-9 shooting (4 for 8 from long distance) and had three steals and three rebounds. He accumulated a good chunk of those numbers in garbage time, but that doesn’t negate a nice showing by the second-year sharpshooter. 

More of the same would further boost Joe’s stock, even if there’s no obvious opening in the Sixers’ rotation.

“He’s been good,” Rivers said. “We’ve got to get him on the floor more, is what I keep telling our coaches, because those 10 guys are playing so much. Isaiah did a good job today and I told him, ‘I don’t care what unit you’re on.’ … But he’s got to get on the floor more, and I thought today he did a good job."

Joe’s impression is that he’s “most definitely fighting for minutes,” but he feels comfortable with his job description. 

My role is to come in, knock down shots and play defense,” he said. “Eliminate turnovers and straight-line drives. That’s one thing I’ve really been working on during this offseason.”

Regardless of where Joe stands now, he looks destined for regular-season opportunities at some stage this season. He got his first crack as a rookie when the Sixers were shorthanded due to COVID-19 protocols, playing 45 minutes for a seven-man squad in a Jan. 9 loss to the Nuggets.